THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

NorthEast United FC down South Africa’s AmaZulu FC 3-1

AmaZulu FC v NorthEast United FC

AmaZulu FC v NorthEast United FC

On a chilly evening in Durban at the pristine Princess Magogo Stadium, NorthEast United FC shook off the pre-season cobwebs and delivered a professional performance against AmaZulu FC under lights. AmaZulu FC is one of the oldest clubs in South Africa and is a much-loved Premier Soccer League (PSL) side in Durban. The playing conditions were absolutely superb and having rained earlier, the ball was found to zipping across the surface. The Princess Magogo Stadium was used as one of the venues for Brazil and Holland’s preparatory camps during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and one glance at the turf told us why.

It would be fair to say that NEUFC dominated the match from start to finish and if one was to be a bit greedier, the Highlanders could have ended up with a higher goal tally going by the amount of chances they created. The hunger and eagerness was visible right from the start as NEUFC poured into the opposition half with intent. Sanju Pradhan was a blur of white and red, his pace causing considerable problems for the AmaZulu defence. Within the first five minutes, he was put though on goal with a delightfully weighted pass from Simão, following which his chip was clawed away by the keeper. Boubacar Sanogo then latched on to a loose ball in the box, but his angled drive flew wide of the right hand post. In another 5 minutes, following some persistent pressing, the ball broke loose in the box for Simão who surged past the keeper and looked to be heading with the ball towards the empty net until a brave, crunching last-ditch tackle from one of the AmaZulu defenders forced the ball wide.

But the Highlanders could not be kept quiet for long. On the 25th minute, Sanju was set free with a slide rule pass and he blazed into the opposition penalty box. At the last moment he looked up and spotted Simão arriving at the edge of the box and cut the ball back. The former Portuguese international blasted the ball into the far corner first-time to open his account for his new club.

AmaZulu (Usuthu) continued to battle and grew into the game after the goal. But the defence remained strong with Hengbart and Miguel manning the back line. On two occasions, the Usuthu whipped in dangerous balls into the box, only for Miguel and Hengbart to head the danger away. The teams went into the half-time break with the score at 0-1.

The second-half started in similar fashion to the first-half with Kamara and Francis replacing Simão (on the receiving end of a nasty tackle towards the end of the first-half) and Sanju Pradhan. Within six minutes, NEUFC broke through once again. This time Reagan Singh played the pass of the match, a left-footed reverse long ball that opened up the left-flank. Bruno Arias sped onto it and squared a pass for the Argentine, Velez, who had replaced Sanogo at half-time. The former Warriors FC striker calmly side-footed the ball into the roof of the net to give NEUFC an unassailable 0-2 lead on the night.

It got better for NEUFC in another 8 minutes, as Siam Hanghal closed down the opposition goal-keeper with alarming pace and stripped him of the ball. His next action was to round the goal-keeper and finish from an extremely acute angle.

With the game now in the bag, Seityasen Singh, Marlangki Suting and Zohmingliana Ralte were introduced and given precious minutes. A controversial incident that involved an AmaZulu player falling on top of Bruno in the box, was adjudged to be a foul by the Spaniard. The resulting penalty was dispatched to give the home team a consolation on the night.

Thereafter, the game was seen out in a highly professional manner by the Highlanders, as they claimed a morale-boosting first win on their pre-season tour against a pacy and young AmaZulu FC side.